Tuesday 27 October 2020

Tempeh black bean taco filling

Hands up anyone who buys tempeh because they want the supermarket to know that we want it available  but then then doesn't know what to do with it.  That would be me!  I do have a standby tempeh and corn soup recipe that is often a default.  But I was really happy to find another easy tempeh recipe that is perfect for Taco Tuesdays.

Yet again, I found the inspiration in my spreadsheet of recipe ideas.  I wanted a change for fillings for my Taco Tuesdays.  I was pretty happy that I had picked up black beans in the supermarket and had a packet of tempeh in the fridge, plus some leftover taco seasoning from a taco packet.  With a bit of onion and garlic I was ready to go.  I wanted quick and this was indeed quick.


I found the instructions to add some water to the tempeh perplexing.  I always find that tempeh is quite wet and I squeeze water out rather than adding it.  I cooked the tempeh and black beans in my cast iron skillet which meant I could leave the tempeh a few minutes before turning and let it get golden brown.  (as an aside, I have washed my skillet in soapy water and it is looking dull and needs seasoning.  It seems a bit of an ask but I do love the skillet and hope I will soon understand it better!)

We are into Junior MasterChef this year, which is screening on Tuesdays.  It is pleasing to watch it knowing we have had a decent meal, albeit not as impressive as the cooking of these kids.  I have frozen the tempeh black bean filling and had some of it tonight so I can confirm that it can be frozen.  And tastes great fresh off the skillet or reheated.  After hearing recently that traditional Mexican food is not full of dairy food, I left grated cheese off and was happy to find that the tempeh gave a soft pasty texture that replaced the cheese well.  (I still included yoghurt but might have left that off if I had thought to buy avocados.)  I really loved this taco filling and can see it being added on regular rotation to our Taco Tuesdays.

And as an aside, it is a good day for Melbourne.  Our second day of no corona virus diagnoses and no corona virus deaths (also known as a double doughnut day).  Our Premier has eased the lock down restrictions so shops will open tomorrow, we can have two visitors in the house and in a couple of weeks we can get through the "ring of steel" to visit regional Victoria.  Exciting days but a lot of adjustments and warnings to be careful as we go!

More tempeh dishes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Orange glazed tempeh
(gf, v) 
Pumpkin and kale soup with tempeh crumbles
(gf, v)
Sage tempeh sausages wraps
Tempeh and corn soup
(gf, v)
Tempeh and pumpkin lasagne
Watercourse Foods tempeh burger

Tempeh black bean taco filling
Adapted  from the Garden Grazer
Serves about 4

300g tempeh
2 tbsp taco seasoning*
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g can black beans, rinsed and drained

Serving suggestion: Corn taco shells, red capsicum, purple cabbage, salsa, yoghurt, fresh herbs

Squeeze as much water out of tempeh as possible.  Crumble tempeh into a small mixing bowl and pour in taco seasoning.  Heat oil in a skillet and fry onion and tempeh for 8-10 minutes.  Stir in garlic for about a minute and then black beans for a few minutes to heat.  Serve in taco shells and pile with toppings as desired.

*UPDATE (Nov 2020): I made this again with home made taco seasoning (based on this taste.com.au member recipe), which makes about 2 tbsp and am recording it here for next time:

2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp ground chilli

On the stereo:
Sweetener: Ariana Grande

Sunday 18 October 2020

Quick One Pot Mac and Cheese and random notes

We now have had over 100 days of lockdown in Melbourne and everyone seems to be totally drained by it.  One way I have been coping with low energy is to have more regular meal nights.  Friday has always been pizza night.  We started Taco Tuesdays a while back.  And Sylvia asked for a Mac and Cheese Monday.  So today I am going to share the quick one pot mac and cheese that has got me through some low energy Mondays.

As an aside, today we had the good news that the restrictions will start to be eased at midnight today but the first steps wont make much difference to me.  Unlike a lot of Melbourne, I was already doing home hair cuts before lockdown and cannot raise any excitement about hairdressers opening again!  It's nice to go a bit further away than 5 km from home but we can't do much more than walk and talk.  I yearn for shared meals, a visit to a gallery or a film in a cinema.  But it was heartening to have only 5 diagnoses over the past 3 days and to know there are easier times ahead.  And I don't take this for granted after our long lockdown and seeing that many places around the world are having far greater daily diagnoses than at our peak of 700+.  I am more excited about Geelong being in the AFL Grand Final next weekend.


But I digress.  This mac and cheese is far simpler than all our confusing lockdown rules.  It actually started with trying Jac's Microwave Mac and Cheese in a Mug.  I liked it but found it easier to cook pasta in a saucepan than in a cup in the microwave.  I could see a use for Jac's recipe if you only had a microwave to cook in or you wanted to make a very small amount of mac and cheese.  But when we have mac and cheese, I try and make sure there are enough leftovers that we are not fighting over who gets them.  (Because we will if there is not much there!)

So then I checked out a one pot cheesy mac clone that I had bookmarked and it was similar to Jac's but had a few other ideas.  We had a bit of experimenting with the amount of cheese.  Then, unlike many recipes on this blog, I made it quiet a few times to check I was happy with it (and make my Mondays easier).

My usual way of making mac and cheese is to cook the pasta while I make a creamy cheesy sauce using a roux with lots of milk and cheese.  The recipe I have been using recently is different because there is no roux.  It doesn't save heaps of time but is a few less steps if you are really tired or time-poor.  Cream cheese seems to step into place instead of the roux to thicken and add creaminess.  I found had to reheat slowly at the end to make sure all the cheese was melted.  And I can confirm it is great the next day.  Like other mac and cheeses, it is not as creamy after sitting overnight in the fridge but is still good grub!

You would be right in thinking that pizza, tacos and mac and cheese are stodgy comfort food.  I have been making an effort to serve with lots of veg.  My latest favourite way to serve veg is to steam it in the microwave and stir through a little pesto.  When I was photographing this pasta recently I served it with cauliflower, broccoli, spinach and peas with a little pesto.  I also chopped up some tofu nuggets because they were in the fridge.  There are all sorts of ways to serve mac and cheese.  We have had it on pizza, in pies, on tacos.  Anything goes.

Now that I have this great easy mac and cheese, Sylvia has decided she prefers her mac and cheese to be made with a roux!  But if you are gluten free, it is an easy cheese sauce without the flour.

And before I finish, I want to share some random notes:

Easing corona virus restrictions can be as frustrating as it is exciting.  A few weeks back outdoor pools opened again.  Spots are limited and must be booked.  But I have found that you can only book if you are a member because they can book 4 days ahead whereas casuals can book 24 hours ahead.  I am really missing having a swim.

My sister in Ireland was amused that when they went back into lockdown recently, there were families that had emergency first communions with big white dresses and lots of presents.

I have only done one click and collect in the car.  We sat in the car while a guy stared at us.  Then once I realised his stare meant he had something for us (which was so small I had not noticed it in his huge trolley) I found I was parked too close to the next door car to open the door.  My neighbour was out of his car and abusing me for denting his car as I maneuvered my car out to be able to get out and pick up my parcel.  I really miss going into shops to buy clothes and books and cards and and and .....

Though sometimes shopping in the time of covid can seem like being in a spy thriller.  It amused me when Sylvia's phone screen needed fixing and E was told to go through the green grocers and through the back door to an alley where he would find a door to drop off the phone.  I am just disappointed that he did not have a password such as "the toothless tiger rules the restless jungle".

In her last week of remote schooling Sylvia was asked to dress in cultural dress for the Harmony Week online assembly.  She told me her culture was K-Mart.  Which is partly amusing and partly disturbing but it was where she most recently bought clothes so I guess she was referring to what she would wear.  I was too busy with work to go to assembly but wonder how it went, given that for book week the lastest school newsletter noteds that kids will make masks in art so every kid can dress up even if parents can't get out to the shops to be able to make a costume!

The government's budgets this year have been very interesting.  Firstly our government that last year so proudly spoke about being back in the black, have gone into huge debt.  Perhaps this is why they had to get all blokey in this month's Budget speech.  Male dominated industries got the "lion's share" and female dominated industries were left in the lurch.  Most ridiculous was when one of the female MPs told the press that the budget looked after women because "If you drive on roads as a woman ... you will benefit from our investment in infrastructure."

More Mac and Cheese Recipes online

Quick One Pot Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Book Lovers Pizza
Serves 3-4

2 cups dried macaroni
1 tbsp cornflour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cream cheese
1 tbsp seeded mustard
125g grated cheese (or a 1 cup of tightly packed grated cheese)

Firstly cook the macaroni in a medium small saucepan in boiling salted water until just done.  (Check the instructions on the packet for timing as different pastas cook at different times.)  Drain and return to saucepan.  Stir in cornflour, then milk, then cream cheese and mustard and then grated cheese.  If the mixture is not quite warm enough to melt the cheese, heat the saucepan gently and stir frequently until cheese is melted.

On the Stereo:
The Swell Season - self titled

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Apple and berry crumble

Sunday night found me in a good mood with Sylvia set to return to school after months of remote schooling, I had been for a walk with a friend, Sylvia had too, and I had got some order into the house.  While tidying up the fridge I cleared out scraps of uneaten berries and remembered the abandoned apples in the fruit bowl.  Given that we are still coming out of the winter doldrums of mediocre fruit and veg, a fruit crumble seemed a good idea.  I made it while on a House Party video call with my family.  Hands covered in crumble mixture and mobile phones do not mix!

Then we watched the start of Junior Master Chef Australia 2020.  The most heartening part of watching it so far was during the food tasting when some kids admitted to really hating some foods.  Wow if these kids who are amazing at cooking can be fussy, I feel better about what Sylvia is eating.  Sylvia is pretty good at serving up an attractive plate of food.  I am not sure if it is my blogging or all the cooking she watches online.  She sprinkled icing sugar on her crumble and accompanied it with a big spoonful of toffee yoghurt.

The crumble was delicious.  The jammy baked berries have the prettiest of purple hues and who doesn't love a warm crispy crumble topping.  I adapted it from a favourite recipe.  We were both very happy as we dug into our warm crumble and had to exercise some discipline to leave the remaining crumble for the next night.  It was sooo good.

More fruit crumbles on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apricot crumble with cranberries and hazelnuts

Berry and coconut crumble
Chocolate custard crumble

Peach crumble
Rhubarb, quince and apple crumble
Rhubarb and strawberry crumble

Apple and Berry Crumble
Serves 2-4

2 apples, cored and peeled
squeeze of lemon juice
2-3 tbsp granulated sugar
2-3 handfuls of mixed berries

3 tbsp wholemeal flour
3 tbsp rolled oats
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
3 tbsp brown sugar
50-60g butter*

Place apple slices in a small to medium saucepan with the granulated sugar and a few spoonfuls of water.  Cook for 5-10 minutes until apple is bendy and wilting but not soggy and falling apart.  Turn off heat and stir in the berries and set aside while putting together crumble.  (I used strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.  Cold or frozen is fine.)

Meanwhile make crumble by rubbing butter into dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  If you want your crumble to be vegan, use margarine.  I used Nuttalex margarine which worked well!

Grease a small baking dish and spoon in the fruit mixture.  Scatter crumble over the fruit.  Bake at 180 C for about 25-30 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.

On the stereo:
Costello music: The Fratellis

Saturday 10 October 2020

Lockdown Crafts (for kids)

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!  The kids are back at school on Monday!  So much to celebrate!  The excited sounds of kids voices in the playground.  Little heads together whispering secrets.  Awkward limbs skeetering around each other.  Teachers able to see puzzled faces in the classroom (they don't show on video conferences).  And parents working at home in peace!

It seems quite amazing after almost three months of remote schooling to have (most of) our kids returning to the classroom in Melbourne.  But as with previous lockdown, I will miss seeing so much of what Sylvia is doing in class, especially the art and craft.  So I have collected together photos of some of the craft she has done both in class and leisure ad a few that I did with her.

The craft project of Melbourne lockdown 2.0 was Spoonville.  It is fun, creative and a great way to connect communities.  I had bought some new wooden spoons before lockdown 2.0.  It took us a while to get to it but we had plenty of time.  Finally we got out paints and Sylvia painted hers as cows: strawberry, caramel and oreo.

I painted three kids.  As well as paint I used some sharpies (textas) to draw on the faces.  When I found  varnished mine with clear nail polish that it makes the ink weep.  But apparently it helps when spoons are outside in the weather.  Sylvia's school had a spoonville which we were happy to add to (see top photo).

This is technically science.  But, as our government fails to see in their recent higher education bill amending the costs of subjects, science and arts aren't so very different to each other.  They can inspire curiosity and awe in all sorts of ways.  The idea was found in this list: 50 genius STEM activities for kids.


Sylvia got lots of ideas from the internet but that does not take from her creativity.  Even to be able to copy what you see, requires some talent and often it has your own style. I loved this baby shark she made from a paper plate.

Llamas are all the rage right now.  These paper plate llamas are easy and pretty cute.

One of the activities that delighted Sylvia the most was this pom pom drop.  In lockdown it is not easy to find the right equipment.  We were really happy this required very little - cardboard tubes, washi tape and mini pom poms.  Sylvia had a lovely time positioning the tubes on a door so she could drop a pom pom through the tubes. 


Some might remember that last year Sylvia got into a slime phase and made jars and jar of slime.  She finds it very satisfying to play with.  So once she saw it in the list of things suggested, the glue and activator appeared again.  I liked the extra work on these jars with a glue gun, googly eyes, pom poms and pipe cleaners.

Sylvia tried different additions to slime to get different textures and looks: pom poms, sequins and googly eyes.

Another shark.  This time a newspaper shark on a felt and fabric collage!

A wee turtle.  Made from an egg carton, pom pom, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, glue gun and a lick of paint.

A cute cloud and rainbow made from felt and craft papers.

Paper plate fish!

Sylvia painted this ombre troll vase and collected flowers from the garden to put in it.

 Fireflies made from juice bottles.  Sylvia raided the craft box for different fabrics and bits and pieces.

The clever bit about these fireflies is that you can replace the glow stick as many times as necessary.  They would be fun for sleepovers when Sylvia is allowed to have them again!

Sylvia is already into Halloween so when I had an urge to do a collage out of old calenders, we agreed on a haunted house.  I did the house and she did the ghosts.


Lastly, Sylvia decided we needed rock art before lockdown 2.0 so we bought these at Bunnings hardware in the pouring rain.  Finally the paints came out, along with some googly eyes, safety pins and felt scraps to make rock babies.  Pretty cute, eh?

And, as you might imagine, our cat, Shadow, is always curious with the craft.

Sunday 4 October 2020

In My Kitchen - October 2020

The year just gets crazier and crazier.  While in the northern hemisphere many places are  having a second wave of covid, in Melbourne we are looking forward to ending months of our second lockdown.  We have had an inquiry into hotel quarantine that was the source of covid in the second wave.  The outcomes were a carnival of forgetfulness, creeping assumptions and the resignation of our state health minister.  Of course it seems far crazier in the USA where the last week has seen an embarrassment of a presidential election debate followed days later by Trump being diagnosed with corona virus.  At home the weather is warming as the  diagnoses get smaller, I got my first sunburn of the season on a walk with friend yesterday, we have been robbed of an hour with daylight savings starting today and my computer is acting up!

There is a lot of craziness in lockdown.  Some of you might think that it is crazy to eat pumpkin scones with vegemite but they were rather good.  The only crazy part was that I bought the scones from the supermarket.  Everyone knows that home made scones are the best.  I just haven't had a lot of kitchen energy lately. So today the meals I am showing are quick and easy.

 I took two weeks holidays in September and thought I might find some energy for cooking but we had some pretty basic meals.  Above is one of my favourite lazy meals.  Baked beans on toast.  However it wasn't completely easy because I baked the sourdough bread.

Even easier were these veg fast food that we picked up at the supermarket.   Sylvia chose the caramelised onion and cheddar cheese quiches but was not keen.  I have been enjoying the chickpea, spinach and caramelised oniion pastry rolls.  Not quite as good as my favourite sausage rolls but not a bad light meal.  My favourite of the lot are the broccoli and cheese bites which are great comfort food.  The broccoli makes it sound a little healthier but when you see how little green is in it, you know you are kidding yourself.

These pastries are what a friend once described as "beige food".  The only way to feel good about it is to surround it with fresher veg such as coleslaw and baby spinach for some colour.  This was a work lunch last week that I quite enjoyed.

Before the holidays Sylvia and I were excited to get this free Kid Corner cookbook at the supermarket when we bought 2 tubs of cream cheese.  It has lots of fun recipes.  I thought we might try out one or two during the holidays but sadly we never got that organised.

When shopping after work on a busy day I decided to try a freezer meal.  Sometimes they look so good.  This one with a sri lankan curry.n  The vegies were pretty impressive at keeping their bright colour but it just wasn't quite as nice as dinner made at home and I hated that it was easier to eat from a plastic bowl and ... well ... unnecessary plastics!  I don't think I will be tempted again for some time.

I had a lovely sunny walk around Princess Park with a work friend and while cycling home, I was passing by Pacha Mama on the corner of Sydney Road and Barkly Street in Brunswick.  It had been a while since I had some fancy products so I stopped.  (On our last trip to the farmers market it was a sunny day and there was a queue so we decided to give it a miss.)  While their stocks were reduced, there were still many temptations.  I really enjoyed the crisps with avocado oil, sea salt and cracked pepper.  The damona brie is still waiting for its moment.  The freeze dried strawberries were bought for Syvia's baking but she just munched most of them straight from the packet!  And I enjoyed the vegan rocky road, though would have preferred it without coconut oil.

Luckily, even though I don't get to fancier shops often, the supermarkets have more and more to intrigue.  Recently I bought some vegan aioli and some vegan fysh sauce.  Neither have been opened but they seem just the thing to spruce up some spring meals.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog and visit more kitchens.